September 17, 2012

Champlain Valley Family Center turns 30


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Jay LePage became the voice of his son’s recovery after Michael’s struggle with alcohol addiction came to an untimely end in November 2005.

Through tears, he praised the Champlain Valley Family Center’s compassionate, caring staff for helping his son and other Clinton County residents find the help they need to get clean.

“Your agency has a record of successfully meeting the ever-growing imperative needs of the people of Clinton County and the North Country for 30 years,” LePage said. “I have direct knowledge of that with both my professional and personal experiences.”

LePage, who is Clinton County commissioner of Social Services, was one of many speakers who gathered to commemorate the Family Center’s 30th anniversary.


He shared the story of Michael’s brave battle with sobriety, moving many attendees to tears. 

LePage credited Family Center Executive Director Connie Wille with helping Michael take the important, initial step down the rocky road to recovery.

He recalled delivering a stern ultimatum to his son, making it mandatory that he contact Wille immediately for help.

“I declared war … I told (Michael) that the consequences for not calling Connie would be that he would have to leave the house. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he said.

With significant help from Wille, Michael sought treatment and stayed clean for nearly a year, LePage said, before a relapse near Thanksgiving that ultimately led his son to suicide.

LePage praised Wille and the Family Center for embracing everyone working through a chemical dependence and for doing so without judgment.

“For those of you facing the struggle, embrace your inner talent. Good things take time,” he said. “I think we owe people who are trying to recover truth and fairness without judgment.”

State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez also honored the center for reaching the milestone, commending its commitment to providing substance-abuse treatment, prevention and education services.

“Though your dedication and compassion, you have made a positive impact on the lives of the individuals that you serve and their family members,” she said.

“As a parent, I am grateful to know that there are programs like this where a young person, or anyone for that matter, who needs help can receive the full support necessary to achieve long-term recovery.”


González-Sánchez said the center reaches more than 3,000 individuals annually through its prevention programs, while serving hundreds more who rely on it for treatment and help fighting addiction.

“(The center) has a strong history of providing the highest quality of recovery-support services to every patient, and you do it with dignity, cultural sensitivity and, more importantly, compassion,” she added.

Following her speech, she presented Wille a commemorative proclamation on behalf of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in celebration of the center’s work.

As director of Clinton County Addiction Services, Sherrie Gillette also works closely with the Family Center.

She spoke about her relationship with that agency and its ability to help heal anyone in the community, whether he or she is suffering from addiction or knows someone who is.

“Countless people, from adolescents to seniors, have been helped to establish recovery from their addiction as a result of participation in its services,” Gillette said.

“From the moment you walk in the door, you have a sense of being welcomed and that help is available.”


Wille credits the organization’s success to a “we” mentality.

“Active chemical dependency is a lonely, isolating disease. My recovery started on June 30, 1985. I learned the core of my continued recovery could and would be found in the wonderfully simple two-letter word,” she told the crowd. “The word, of course, is ‘we.’ Throughout my recovery and my career ‘we’ has always been an absolute core value.”

She commended her “mission-driven, dedicated and committed” staff for their hard work.

“For the past 26 years, I’ve worked with the chemically dependent population. Never have I worked with a more caring, creative group of professionals. You motivate me on a daily basis to work harder.”

Wille also addressed current and former clients of the center who were in attendance.

“Your courage and commitment to change is absolutely inspiring,” she said. “Your families and the community at large are benefiting tremendously from the recovery that you have done, and I want you to know how much I respect you.”


Champlain Valley Family Center is a nonprofit organization, licensed through State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to provide substance-abuse-treatment services for residents of Clinton County.

It also provides education, prevention and specialized youth programs to prevent and minimize the damage cause by alcoholism and substance abuse.

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